Yesterday, Christopher at “A New Testament Student” published a very good post called “Education.” His post was a response and continuation of a post that I wrote three years ago called “Maturity and Education.”
Christopher is writing about a topic that is very important to me for several reasons. In his post, he says (among other things):
The idea of education in the Church is one that has often perplexed me. The apostles were fishermen, tax collectors, and were even called “uneducated men” (Acts 4:13). They were men filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in faith and trust in God. On the other hand, they did spend three years under Jesus teaching prior to his crucifixion and also received teaching during Christ’s short stay on earth after His resurrection. As with most ideas in our faith, it comes down to the heart.
How you approach Christian education makes all the difference. If you go into seminary or bible school with the intent to gain a degree just so you can pursue a career in ministry and keep that mentality throughout your studies, you will gain quite a bit of knowledge. However, that knowledge may not result in exponential growth in spiritual maturity. If you enter into seminary with the intent to seek the heart of God, the self discipline, amount of study, and time needed to complete any degree in Christian higher education will undoubtedly result in greater maturity upon graduation.
Because of my original post, I’m often accused of being against formal education. I don’t understand this accusation, especially since I currently have three degrees (one bachelors and two masters), and I’m working on a PhD. In fact, I would love to one day teach in a formal education environment. I am not opposed to formal education.
However, formal education is not the same thing as spiritual maturity. In fact, at times, formal education can be a detriment to spiritual maturity, especially if the studies hinder the student’s life in community with other believers and in serving others. (In the seminary context, I’ve heard some students state that going to school is their service for that time period. This is a dangerous attitude in relation to a person’s spiritual maturity.)
In relation to leaders among the church (that is, whose example do we follow?), we should consider spiritual maturity first. Some can be highly educated (even in the subjects of Bible, Christian theology, missions, ministry, etc.) and still be very immature when it comes to living a life that demonstrates the gospel of Jesus Christ. Having a formal education does not indicate that that person’s example should be followed.
Yes, formal education has its place. But, we must never confuse formal education with spiritual maturity.